Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Calendar

I have heard from many people about this year's calendar and not starting Winter Recess until after school on Friday, December 23.  The Calendar Policy and the School Board preference that holiday breaks on both traditional and year round calendars align dictate how the Calendar Committee designs each calendar.  The time to be watching out for Winter Recess is the October before (i.e. October 2011 for Winter Recess 2012-13).

Four JEA members serve on the Calendar Committee, which also has 10 parents, 4 administrators, and 3 classified members.  The JEA members on the committee are Bev Griffith - Literacy Specialist representing year round, Liz Taylor - Elk Meadows representing traditional elementary, Kathy Bekkemellom - South Hills representing middle school, and Jack Duffy - West Jordan High representing high school.  You can provide them with feedback, but they are only 4 of 21 votes on the committee.  Having attended a couple of meetings, I can tell you that what parents want is a key part.  I heard one parent say that traditional cannot start any earlier in August, because "August has the best boating weather". 

Scroll toward the bottom of the calendar page to see the calendars for the 2012-2013 school year.  The Calendar Committee recommended a traditional calendar with a 3-day Thanksgiving Recess for 2012-2013, which was approved.  The Board decided to try it and watch attendance data to see about changing the policy, which currently states that "Thanksgiving Recess shall be two (2) days, Thanksgiving Day (Thursday) and Friday."  This is the first experiment on not aligning a holiday break between traditional and year round.  The reason Winter Recess is so short this year has to do with Christmas falling on a Sunday and aligning the break between the calendars.  Due to restrictions on year round, it is sometimes difficult to find enough school days making Winter Recess as short as possible.

The School Board would need to change their preference on aligning holiday breaks in order for there to ever be a 2-week Winter Recess or a 1-week Spring Recess on traditional.  I know the week long Spring Recess was discussed for 2012-2013, but the majority of parents preferred their children be out of school as close to the beginning of June as possible.

If you are concerned about the Winter Recess, please contact the JEA members on the Calendar Committee about your desires.  You also need to watch for updates and School Board meeting minutes so you can have some influence on the 2013-2014 Winter Recess dates.  Tentative calendars are also on the calendar page at the very bottom.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Negotiated Joint Committee

The Negotiated Joint Committee met last Thursday afternoon. We made plans for Interest Based Bargaining training for February.

We discussed the new high school parent teacher conference format to be in place for 2012-2013. Based on surveys of high school teachers and parents of high schoolers, and after extensive discussion through DAC and Negotiations, high school parent teacher conferenes will be from noon to 8:00 p.m. on the Wednesday of secondary conference week. There will be no compensation day. This will make coaches more available, since they can hold practices in the morning, teachers will not have to work two 12- hour days and then an 8-hour day before the compenation day, and there will be more flexibility for schools to decide on open or scheduled conferences, and allowing parents who work at night to attend during the day. The data on attendance and effectiveness will determine if this format will be used the next year. Middle school conferences would be held on Wednesday and Thursday of the same week.

High school collaboration was also addressed. High school principals would like to see something similar to the middle schools with common time so those who are the only teacher of a subject in a school could work with those in other schools who teach the same subject.

Nepotism is being addressed. Plesae see this blog post for more information.

West Jordan Middle School Visit

I had a great time visiting with teachers at West Jordan Middle during their lunch yesterday.  They have a great school!  The majority of their teachers are active members who are well-informed.  They asked good questions about the salary schedule, performance pay, and the legislature. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Meeting with Dr. Johnson

I met with Superintendent Johnson on Monday for our regular monthly meeting.  We discussed the scheduling of Interest-Based Bargaining training, who would be attending, and what we hope to accomplish.

We talked about school climate.  In the model to which the District is moving, the School Board will hold the Superintendent accountable for results as far as student progress and learning.  In turn, the Superintendent will hold the Administrators of Schools accountable, who will hold Principals accountable, who will hold Teachers accountable.  Some schools may need principals with different skill sets.

Nepotism was also discussed.  The District policy on nepotism is not as restrictive as the Utah State Law.  Basically, more relatives are included in the State list.  Over the next three years, the District will be asking those who work "under the same immediate supervisor" (principal) to voluntarily look for a transfer to another location in order to become compliant with the law.  Please call if you have questions about this.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Busy Day

This morning was the Sick Bank Committee.  I met with School Board President Rick Bojak after that.  We had a good conversation about ongoing collaboration.  I thought the meeting went well.

I spent lunch at Elk Ridge.  They have a great faculty who seem very informed and wanting to know what is happening next as far as legislation that will impact their classrooms.  Thanks to Jannifer for setting up that meeting!

This after noon was DAC.  We discussed an exit survey, school climate, nepotism, and JPAS for nurses.  Watch the JEA website where the minutes will be posted as soon as we have them.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Elementary Preparation Time Task Force

The Elementary Planning/Collaboration Time Task Force met again yesterday afternoon.  Each person had made a proposed schedule for incorporating preparation time into the elementary school day.  Everyone approached this assignment differently, so there were lots of ideas.  Basically, to have one licensed specialist teacher (computer, art, music, P.E., etc.) per 28 classes who would teach the students while teachers have preparation time would cost between $2.5 and $3 million.  Bevan Wasden and I will make a report for the Joint Committee.  It is good to have the idea for the ideal, but money will be an issue that will make elementary preparation time something that will not happen in the near future.

Legislative Supply Money

The final amounts for Legislative Supply Money for the year are as follows:
  • Elementary Steps 1-3:  $250
  • Elementary Steps 4+:  $165
  • Secondary Steps 1-3: $200
  • Secondary Steps 4+:  $145
All school will have the full amount by Monday, December 12, so start turning in those receipts!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

NCUEA Conference Day 3

Yesterday was the final day of the conference.  Diane Ravitch was the keynote speaker. She was part of the Bush administration and supported NCLB. She has seen the effects and changed her position. She wrote a book called "The Death and Life of the Great American School System" which discusses how choice and testing have harmed public schools.  She spoke about the narrative of failing public schools full of bad teachers who don't care about kids, because the union makes sure they have a lifetime job. She does not support this. She said unions are not the reason schools are failing. Finland is 105% union, because all teachers and principals belong to the same union. Teach for America (TFA) is not a teacher training program, it is a leadership training program where young people are not teaching very long then becoming superintendent. The problem is privatization and de-professionalization of teaching.

The union doesn't give tenure. We need to stop using the word. Tenure only means we have due process, not lifetime employment. Last in, first out (LIFO) campaign followed. Problems with firing older teachers. She understands the conservative thinking, because she worked in their think tanks for many years. They want vouchers. Charters are a substitute for vouchers. This is a campaign for choice, which leads to privatization.  Unions are the enemy of all the conservative think tanks want to accomplish. The ideas she thought were bad have now been adopted by Obama. Under first President Bush, she was swayed to support testing and vouchers. She sees the problems now. Testing, accountability, and choice is the single message coming out of Congress. She doesn't think it is right that states must compete for federal funds. The majority of kids with needs will not get the money they need because of the competition. Federal funds should be distributed by formula based on need. NCLB needs to go away.

‎100% proficiency goal is unrealistic. What NCLB has done is set up public education to fail. This is demonizing the profession and demoralizing teachers. Congress is not looking at the big picture. Race to the Top is NCLB 2.0. To be eligible for federal funding, you must increase the number of charter schools. Most charter schools are not out-performing public schools. The general public has been led to believe charters are better. Charters do not have to meet same requirements as public schools.  With all the advantages of charter schools, charters are not doing a better job educating students. A public school is not a "chain store" to close if it doesn't make money.  Conservatives are  not privatizing firefighters and police force. Some places are starting to privatize libraries, which is also wrong. Low-level corporate thinking is the problem. Best corporate thinking is to treat your employees like gold (i.e. Google). Students know they can withhold their efforts on tests to hurt their teachers.

Tea party people like the conservative narrative. The governors are cutting benefits for teachers and taxes for large corporations. New Orleans district is rebuilding from TFA and receiving praise. Diane can't find foundations that support public education, but the big ones support "reform" (Gates, Walton - owners of Walmart). Democrats for Education Reform are gaining support. Billionaires around the nation are spending a lot on politics to push the conservative agenda for privatization. They are recommending for other people's children what they would not allow for their own children. Stand for Children, Teach First, Educators for Excellence, are some of the other organizations that are influencing policy and laws in other states.

NEA needs to persuade Obama administration that if they don't change their education policy, teachers won't come out to vote for him. Jeb Bush is working hard for privatization. Cyber-charters are the cash cow of education. Full per pupil spending but not all the services of a public school (librarians, teacher help, socialization) are provided for that amount. Test scores and graduation rates are very low for cyber-charters. 

No other country uses test scores as part of evaluation. Principals in New York want the new evaluation system piloted somewhere before full implementation. The real problem is poverty. Testing and evaluation is a diversion tactic. The biggest predictor of success on any test is family income.  Why is Finland number one if they don't have standardized tests? New book out "Finnish Lessons". Finland spent 30 years transforming education system. Young people compete to get into teacher preparation programs. Teaching is a well-respected profession. Only 4% poverty. Less diversity than us, but better test scores than other similarly homogeneous countries.  Accountability must include all people who make decisions about education. Tests should be used for diagnostics and not for punishment. Students who are overly tested do not learn to think creatively. Incentives and sanctions, carrots and sticks, reward high tests and punish low tests. 21st-century thinking is that most important motivation is intrinsic, so carrots and sticks don't work. Family is important to school success. Poverty is not an excuse, it is a fact. Anyone who says they can turn around a school in a year is lying. Transformation takes time.

We are in a dark time for education. It will survive because of millions of teachers and parents who support them.  We need to tell President Obama that his policies mirror President Bush's policies, and that the evaluation tied to test scores is wrong. He needs to publicly change his position. San Diego has community based school reform that is making gradual steady progress. 

The final session was about moving from payroll deduction to Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). We need to have conversations with individual members during this process. In Australia after the loss of payroll deduction, they began to gain members. Other forms of payment include EFT, credit card, or cash. District will not be involved and will no longer know how many members we have.  PCI Compliance for credit card information is strict rules about security with paperwork, computer access, and internal processes and requires additional audits. Members only website for self-enroll in EFT or credit card payment, which is through Bank of America, is secure and BOA handles PCI. 2 weeks for EFT and 6-8 weeks foe credit card payments to work.

Update all member information (school, phone, address, email). We need to use home email accounts. Utah has been working with NEA on this conversion. Weekly conference calls to stay updated. NEA is still building the system.  Alabama had 60% of members flip the first time they were asked. AEA had 93% of all members flip by the date necessary. In Arizona, they polled members about issues that helped drive the message for the flip. Database was updated as part of the process.

Historically there is a 1-2% EFT failure rate where member has overdraft fee. Have to contact members about failures of transfers. Failed transactions cost UEA $2. Each transaction costs NEA $0.02-0.05 per transaction. In states already using EFT, the average fail rate was 1.93%, with the most recent month being 0.91%. The charges for credit card transactions are much higher. Per transaction cost is $0.09-0.35. The failure rate is 11%. Credit card is much more expensive.

The system is currently not set up for new members. We need to set up a complex and smart system because of all the variables involved (district, part-time/full-time).

The NCUEA conference has been a good experience. In addition to all the training sessions, I have been able to connect with other local presidents from Utah and around the nation. Knowing we are not alone in our fight to save public education renews my commitment to continue moving forward.

Friday, December 2, 2011

NCUEA Conference Day 2

This morning I attended the NEA budget hearing. We discussed the importance of the UniServ program, training for local leaders, and membership grants.

I had a chance to talk to Lily about how she and her family are doing. She said Jared is out of prison and working as an assistant diesel mechanic in North Dakota. She said her whole family was together for Thanksgiving. Lily believes the letters Jared received when Ruel died gave him the opportunity to evaluate and change his outlook on life. She is pleased with Jared's progress.

NEA President Dennis VanRoekel is the opening speaker today. He talked about success in New Hampshire and Ohio. We need to take away from our opponents what the are using to hurt us. Strategy must be flexible enough to change with what is happening right now. Mission and vision do not change. Advocating for education professionals is still part of the mission, we just may have to go about it differently. We need to get members to believe in our mission enough to buy in and support us.

Becky Pringle, NEA Secretary-Treasurer, is running for re-election. She quoted a teacher from Kansas who said, "When the work changes, unions die." NEA needs to change as the work of teaching and organizing changes. Let's have some fun re-envisioning NEA.

Greg Johnson is running for re-election to the NEA Executive Committee. He was in awe of his opportunity to meet President Obama and be there when he introduced Race to the Top. His wife is a local president who teaches elementary music. We stand for our students and for our members who do things that can't be measured on a standardized test.  Joyce Powell is running for re-election to the NEA Executive Committee. Has been local and state president in New Jersey. She helped organize rallies in Wisconsin. The reason we do this work is to make a difference.

NCUEA mission statement was adopted. "NCUEA shall promote and advance high-quality Public Education in urban schools by empowering and supporting Local Associations, Leaders, and Members."

Teacher evaluation and accountability presentation. NEA will lead the charge for quality in education professionals. UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh and Susan McFarland, Salt Lake Teachers Association, were on the committee that developed these concepts.  Urgency is due to legislative attacks. Need to share and leverage collective resources within NEA.  The committee report is being released on December 8.  Tests results should only be used if they are valid, reliable and developmentally appropriate, and adopted cooperatively. Should become a career teacher if meeting expectations on their final evaluation.  Looked at Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) around country. Developing an electronic book including fair dismissal, evaluation, and PAR along with research about why we should consider these ideas.  Teachers need to be trained on new components of evaluation systems. Collaborate with District. Take advantage of poorly written laws. Principals need to be trained in how to administer Evaluations. Principals should also be evaluated. Some growth models are good, but must be determined in different areas (elementary special education versus high school AP English) where growth looks different in each area.

I attended a meeting for local presidents with NEA President Dennis VanRoekel. These notes are a little disjointed, but follow how the conversation went.  He is discussing the Common Core. Communications is currently designed around distribution of information. He is trying to tap into ways to learn about what locals are doing. Find a way to share what other locals are doing. 

Dennis talked about Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama. CHIP now covers more children. More people with pre-existing conditions are covered with new health care law. Harder to track where republican money comes from. There are a lot of messages out there that are negative.  Colleagues need to share with each other why they support Obama. We need to reverse the negative impressions of health care law. We can use VAN to target certain groups. Question on how to know which groups to target. More decisions need to be made at local level. We need tools to help newer leaders learn how find answers.  Problem with transition plan to Common Core. New tests will not be available until 2013-14 school year, so do you teach the Core or to the old test? That is what the NCLB waivers are for. 

What can we do to improve teachers' professional, daily lives? Why go to college when District tells them what time to be on what page and what script to read?   Republican attacks are not about education, they're about privatization and profit.  Communication is important. Younger teachers expect immediate and timely information. It is our profession, we are the ones who know, and we need to take it back. We need to use stories and "I" messages, because the press can't be refute them. We need to work with state leaders to share info with local leaders. Every training should be focused on organizing. Locals need research help.  Local leaders need to be ready for decisions. We need to actively participate at District level so they hear teacher concerns.

Powerful when the association, district, and parents work together to improve schools. Education is not a partisan issue.  It is difficult to bring groups together, but it is a better way to collaborate. Sometimes the best spokesperson is not the local president but a classroom teacher or a parent. We need to share our story about public education being the promise of the future of America. Share why you are a member of JEA one-on-one with non-JEA members. 

We know how to help students succeed. We just need to do it. How policies impact us varies by location. We need to send a single message, not mixed messages, about standardized test scores. We believe in multiple measures of student growth, and teachers should be defining student learning at local level.  It is important to look at training, recruitment, induction and retention of new teachers. Mentors need to meet with new teachers weekly. These are things that Teach For America is doing well. It has been an interesting discussion of local presidents from across the country and Dennis.

The afternoon session I attended is on creating a local website to maximize communications. What was presented is much larger than what I was anticipating. There is a complete document management system where historical documents can be scanned and key word, name, school, or date retrievable.  Secure website is good for member only items. Some will still get back to administration or school board. Maintain a public site as well. Have advertising on website to eventually fund all technology. Have member information come up when member logs in for them to verify and edit as needed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

NCUEA Conference Day 1

I am attending the National Council of Urban Education Associations (NCUEA). Urban is considered any local with the potential of 1,000 plus members, which JEA has.

John Stocks, NEA Executive Director, was the first speaker. He talked about how one year ago at election time, the education world was turned upside down. We have a lagging economy, reform groups, attacks, privatizing, and the bad teacher/anti-union narrative has intensified. $17 million cut from NEA budget due to loss of membership from loss of collective bargaining or move to EFT for payment of dues.

He talked about how education reformers who have been opponents of NEA are coming together. Public systems are being privatized (example is community hospitals becoming private), and education is the next big system to privatize. He said the federal government has been unable to tax and redistribute funds to prevent disparities. Property tax collections lag behind home values about three years. 

John discussed how the new reformers tend to be younger and from minority communities. There are now 400 Education Industry Association member companies, companies who are in the business of education. The perfect storm includes social conservatives, corporate anti-union, anti-government, privateers, and reformers. NEA is focused on organizational capacity. Action is coming down more locally to school districts, and even individual schools. JEA needs to learn when and where to collaborate and when and where to fight.

He talked about this crisis being an opportunity for the association to connect with members, other unions, and our communities. We must build strong local associations and unite the nation for great public schools. We have been good at organizing around politics, issues or policies, membership, collective bargaining, public relations, coalitions, and boycotts. We are being out-organized in the community, around professional issues, and through social networking.  These are areas where JEA needs to improve.
‎John Stocks 10 elements of organizing capacity: members, leaders, staff, message, finances, reputation, relationships, programs, technology, and planning.

Questions about Opportunity to Learn, AFT, and quicker access to NEA resources. Some locals also expressed frustration with the slow speed to change at the NEA level. NEA needs a relevant message that sets us apart from other groups. John suggested looking for non-dues revenue sources like philanthropic giving. Staff and governance relationship needs to be tight, or we cannot make progress. We need to enhance value stream is for members. John said, "Get back to lots of people doing a little bit to help row the boat."  I have been saying that since I took office as president.  If every member did just one thing related to the association or the politics of education, JEA could make a big impact.

The next speaker was Kim Anderson, NEA Director of Center for Advocacy, who talked about the national political climate. State legislatures will see the same types of attacks ,only worse, this next session. Tea partiers in Congress are holding GOP leadership hostage. NEA members' stories are key to swaying voters and candidates. The same people funding attacks on labor are funding the Tea Party.  Go to the Education Votes website to learn more about national politics.

Kim said, "We're too important to fail." Look at our assets: members, building, info about voters, and volunteers who are connected to other groups. Advocate in a way that is student-focused.

The first breakout session on membership. We are learning about the Voter Activation Network (VAN). Lots of ways to use this to target groups for political races.

The Mountain Region is met. We talked about upcoming meetings and elections.

Tonight two local associations from Utah received NCUEA grants:  Murray and Salt Lake.  Congratulations to Mark and Susan!